Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Brad ReynoldsBrad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004), Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006) and God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (Bright Alliance, 2021). Visit:


The Key is Always
Already Here

To Unlocking Your True Human Potential

Brad Reynolds

It's only by living from your position of always already Happiness that you can best improve your failings as a self.

Every year we see more and more examples of philosophers and psychologists, many of them now aligned with an “integral” point of view (usually with Ken Wilber's Integral Theory in general, if not specifics), who want to teach us how to become better people, to reach our higher potential, to activate our “unique self” (Gafni), to “unlock our quantum potential” (Houston), to realize what we are born to do, to become more successful, to meditate better, to even become “superhuman” (as one of Wilber's recent programs proclaims). In other words, to become better than we already are. But where is it written in the sacred literature of the world that we can't simply be happy right now where we always are, as you already are? In fact, this is the real secret of happiness: Be Happy NOW! It's only by living from your position of always already Happiness that you can best improve your failings as a self, uncover your shadows, improve your lot in life, not by seeking to improve yourself through methods and techniques of self-improvement. That's like picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Realizing our fullest human potential, which is Enlightenment, comes only as a response to your present condition of inherent Happiness, not via the task of having the self pick itself up from a wounded position of inadequacy. Only by surrendering the contracted or separative self to realize God now, immediately, do we fulfill our evolutionary potential as loving and happy people. It's not by mind games that you improve yourself, but by transcending the mind altogether in the heart of love. Neither religion nor psychology holds the key to God. You do not need to improve your self to be happy or be a better person. You only need to understand yourself and turn to God, not to “quantum powers” or “integral life practices,” but only to Reality as it already IS. There's no place to go, even nothing to improve: you're already Here.

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The assumption is that we, i.e., most of us, are broken, not fulfilled, not doing something right—for why else do we feel incomplete and unhappy?—is an unenlightened presumption. Yet the promoters of self-improvement seem to suggest it's because of our inadequacies as human beings that we are still poor or without enough money to realize our dreams. And they can help us—for a fee. Thus, from all their years of experience, from their diplomas of education, from their time spent on the meditation cushion or seeking for the answers to life's big questions, from the proof of their bigger bank accounts or greater intelligence, etc., we (the common people) are supposed to learn from them how to become a better person. Plus, we're to do so at a rate of around $500 a presentation—even if given as “webinars” over the internet, which rakes in lots of money for them—which, of course, is always “discounted” to, say, $350 (or some figure still in the hundreds of dollars). So who are they really trying to enrich, us or themselves? Nevertheless, this amount of money tends to disqualify most of us common folks, since, honestly, only professionals can afford these fees. But it's worth it! they tell us, for we'll become richer in the process, let alone become a better person. In fact, they suggest, we'll become what God wants us to be—if only we listen to them and buy their program.

The hypocrisy seems a little heavy for me. Instead, I want to suggest it is by studying the world's enlightened Sages and by following their recommendations that we will learn to become our best possible self, which is a devotee of Real God, not an idealized version of ourselves. I maintain this is the best way to enrich yourself: study and practice the wisdom of the world's Spiritual Masters, not the good advice of psychologists and philosophers (which may be useful to a degree). Then you will naturally evolve and grow by transcending the limits of yourself with enlightened wisdom and a greater understanding other than working to improve yourself. This is not athletics, which readily lends itself to improvement through harder work, but the inner development of the human potential, which doesn't work the same way as the physical body.

Of course these idealistic promoters making these offers to us are not bad people. In fact, they are usually people who have developed into higher stages of consciousness, to one degree or another. Therefore, they feel justified—indeed, act as if it's their born responsibility—to offer these programs to save us from ourselves. Most, if not all, of these teachers are basically sincere with a genuine concern for others. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean they too are not deluded in some fundamental ways… at least according to the world's enlightened Sages. In fact, I maintain, they present a persuasive argument that is so subtle, so hard to see through, that most good people will fall for it… since, when we are honest, most of us do feel and know that we are unhappy and dissatisfied at times. Nonetheless, these “power programs” of self-improvement are illusions of the ego that must be understood and transcended in a greater spiritual process that supports Divine Enlightenment, our only true condition of happiness and satisfaction, not by the empowerment of the ego or glorification of the self.

Instead, I advise that a person needs to listen attentively to the world's Sages, and not fall for the argument claiming (as Wilber does) that these Sages are “premodern” relics of an ancient past, and thus somehow lack the knowledge necessary for a self who is born in the “modern world” of science and worldwide capitalism. No—not at all—these enlightened Sages, no matter what century they are born, regardless if they know about atomic or subatomic and quantum structures, or the grand tale of cosmic and biological evolution, or biochemistry and neuroscience, they still know more than we do about our real human condition, so we should listen to them, not people in the lesser stages of life (no matter how smart they are). But it takes real effort and dedication since these Sages, for the most part, are not around to sell us programs—and generally wouldn't do so in the first place. To study them you must spend time with them and read their sacred scriptures, and even commit yourself to a self-transcending spiritual lifestyle (called sadhana in Sanskrit).

Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Adi Da Samraj

There already is a vast library—a “divine library”—of texts given to us by our wisest representatives, but you must take the time to become familiar with their gifts to humankind. If you follow their instructions you will have the keys to truly unlocking your highest human potentials. This includes the writings of recent enlightened Sages, such as Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), or many of the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist masters, and, of course, my favorite Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008), among others. The translations of ancient texts from these wise Masters has been prolific during the 20th-century in all of the world's wisdom traditions, so they're now easily accessible unlike during any other time in human history. It's our sacred duty to make the best use of them possible… and then take up the practice-sadhana, including regular meditation, they recommend, always best done under the guidance of a genuine guru or lineage master who has achieved a high degree of authentic competence.

By studying the world's Sages with an open mind and heart we may discover that we are always already Happy—just as we are—and so all of these programs of self-improvement are actually part of the web of illusion created by the egoic mind to keep us trapped in the world of unenlightened samsara. We are human, so therefore we can already be happy, right now, without having to improve a damn thing. All we have to do is understand that our unhappiness is our own creation, so then we can stop being unhappy, cease the self contraction, and simply be happy since happiness and love is always already our natural condition; it's not something we gain or acquire. Once you realize this you don't need to be superhuman, but simply human. This is what the Sages offer you, so listen to them, establish a relationship with them, not follow all of the concerned psychologists claiming to help you by taking your money and selling you batches of CDs, DVDs, and webinars. They are in a business, so beware of those selling you spirituality as a commodity. They attract you by claiming you can be better than what you are, but this is an illusion, for, in truth, you're already happy and free (whether you realize it or not). You may be able to shine up the relative manifestation, which is a good thing, but you will never change the absolute truth of your current existence = You Are Always Already God!

In a sense, this is similar to the difference between the “sudden” or direct path and the “gradual” or progressive path to Enlightenment. The former promotes Divine Enlightenment (or God-Realization) in the moment, in an instant, once the ego-mind is completely transcended (in what's traditionally called “ego-death”). The latter promises this Divine Awakening as a future event after traversing the stages of life by progressively ascending into the higher possibilities of the subtle soul (via the esoteric anatomy of the human being) until, finally, all experiences are surrendered into the ever-present Divine Heart. Sudden Enlightenment is instantaneous and always already available, which is why Zen, for example, places its emphasis on this satori breakthrough. Gradual Enlightenment is circuitous, often involving lifetimes of practice, and so is a “Great Path of Return” (in Adi Da's words) as attention ascends up the spine into the brain core (ajna chakra or “third eye”) and crown of the head (seventh chakra), only to finally discover Real God in the heart or at the root of the body-mind.

The direct method is the life of the true devotee surrendered in God presently, not as some future possibility.

Sudden Enlightenment is radical, or “at the root,” and always involves the heart and transcendence of attention and all possible experiences, whether high or low. The direct method is the life of the true devotee surrendered in God presently, not as some future possibility. It thus involves a natural life of immediate happiness beyond the desires to constantly improve or evolve the Kosmos. Nonetheless, the devotee of God improves his or her life and the world as the natural and orderly business of life, but not as a condition for Enlightenment or realizing God.

The yogi or spiritual seeker on the gradual path of self-improvement has their attention on the very self (or sense of “I”) that paradoxically must be transcended for God to be realized. Therefore, the gradual process toward Enlightenment is always falling short, always dissatisfied with its current state or condition, even unhappy with its progress (or lack of progress). Even when attention ascends beyond its preoccupation with the physical world by experiencing the subtle world “lokas” of higher blisses and mystical insights, it is never fully satisfied for the truth of God alive in heart has not yet been fully discovered or surrendered into. Thus God is never fully known while on the path of progressive evolutionary unfolding. The gradual path is the illusion of the self active in the realm of Nature, fascinated with cosmic possibilities, always striving for something or somewhere else or to be someone better than what is already present.

The Awakened Adepts, on the other hand, helps transform the seeker into a devotee by directly intervening with their gradual development. Such people, male or female, can spiritually initiate (through the mystery of Grace) the direct and sudden revelation of God in the present. They can potentially show you the God you've been looking for. This is the true function of a genuine Guru, not the cultic games projected by the immature ego. Today's promoters of spiritual techniques, however, seem to have little understanding (and minimal appreciation) of this time-honored tradition as they sell you their various methods of self-improvement. The Sage, a woman or man, whose function is to be a Guru or Sat-Guru is active as God's agent in human form sent to serve our sudden awakening, and then secondarily, to describe the gradual stages by which we may establish equanimity in the body-mind so Sudden Enlightenment becomes more likely.

This is why I point to them as being the true Teachers of humankind, not to the well-meaning proponents (i.e., the psychologists and philosophers) of the gradual method of self-improvement. The Adepts teach surrender or sacrifice of self in God right now, not down the line after the self has been improved. The true devotee will translate into God directly after death, while the seeker will continue to wander for lifetimes still searching for the Divine Condition that is always already the case. In truth, God-Realization is a Single Path that may be followed either suddenly or slowly. The One Path of Enlightenment is to surrender self in love communion with the Living God, not search for God in a more evolved future (or in the ancient past).

This persistence among these well-meaning teachers, but still unenlightened pandits, of the gradual path exhibit what the Avataric Sage Adi Da Samraj calls the “Omega” approach to spirituality, which is decidedly Western in its orientation. The Omega worldview of the West—in contrast to the “Alpha” worldview of the East (and mysticism in general)—is oriented to this world, this conditional realm of human embodiment. Therefore, Western Omega people are always trying to improve everything, to evolve themselves, to build up the world, to perfect it. But this is ultimately just another illusion of the ego-I, the separate self that's been conditioned to want more and more, to buy more and more, to seek for more and more experiences, instead of being happy with what they have and already are. But this Omega mind is not the way of Happiness already realized. The Omega approach, obviously, is the polar opposite to the Alpha-mystical approach that wants to escape this world of samsara and illusion (maya) by ascending to the other world, the more subtle realm of the higher mind and soul. Adi Da criticizes this view as well, for both tendencies are created by the separate self not satisfied with its present condition of embodied human happiness.

Both the Omega (Western) and Alpha (Eastern) view of the human being are unenlightened. Both of these tendencies—to perfect this world or escape it—are active in each of us to greater or lesser degrees, depending on our mood or stage of life. In both cases they are the polar perspectives of unenlightenment. The Enlightened View is the stance of the whole body grounded in and radiating love and compassion from the Heart, the true center and root core of the human being. The Heart, your heart, is always already happy—thus there's no need to go anywhere or improve anything. You only need to understand this truth and be happy right now for no reason at all. Indeed, this disposition is living the life of a Sage, which is your true nature already, always present for you to discover and live moment-to-moment. Granted, once this is realized or known to be true it's not easy to maintain, which is why spiritual practice-sadhana is necessary until Complete Enlightenment (or, in Adi Da's terms, the “Seventh Stage of Life”). But our basic enlightenment is already assured for it's always already the case… right now, as we are. Thinking you need to improve first is missing the point, for then you will go around seeking for happiness instead of being happy.

Amazingly, everything is already “perfect” or complete just as it is, so relax, enjoy, love right now, not when you become a better person (or when the world becomes more peaceful). There are no “quantum powers” to unleash or tap into, no aliens or angels (or archangels) to communicate with, no hidden secrets to uncover, no kundalini that must be activated, for there is only your always already awakened condition of love and happiness, the feeling of being found in the heart as the mind quiets down (the true purpose of meditation). You do not have to become richer, get a better job, be a better lover, or do anything other than realize the very truth that you think evades you but is always already here, now, completely and fully.

Enlightenment now is our only real route to Freedom—and this is what the Sages Teach, this is the Dharma.

Enlightenment now is our only real route to Freedom—and this is what the Sages Teach, this is the Dharma; this is our only True Liberation. So live it, be it, enact it, for real. You don't need to buy or attend seminars; you do need to meditate (to learn how to transcend the ego), but that's about it. You don't need to go somewhere else or be somebody better first. Yet, you must understand yourself—“Know Thyself”—and your tendency to believe in the egoic contraction of “I, me, mine,” the turning away from present relationship with Real God (or “Conscious Light”) in the face of ruthless nature and a battered human society. This is what the Sages teach us—and they give it freely, even if publishers must charge for the paper and ink to print the books. This is the Seventh Stage of Life or Divine Enlightenment, and it is free, no program or method is necessary. The only requirement is to live in relationship to the Here and Now, to Reality as it IS, which itself is Real God, the primal consciousness that is our primordial awareness. Investigate and find out!! It's true and it costs nothing at all. You will see and know for yourself, for it is always already the case, so you're already perfect. Be happy about it. You now have the key, there is nothing to buy—so what are you going to do?

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